4 Ezra and 2 Baruch: Literary Composition and Oral Performance in First-Century Apocalyptic Literature
Students of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch have long noticed numerous thematic, generic, and linguistic parallels that exist between them. Both texts were written in the late first or possibly the early second century C.E., most likely in the land of Israel. The composition of both works was triggered by the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E., as both texts are, in essence, elaborate responses to the host of challenges posted by the Roman aggression. Both stories are set fictitiously during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in the sixth century B.C.E. 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch are Jewish apocalypses of the historical type, and both make extensive use of the same set of literary genres, such as prophetic dialogue, prayer, public speech, and the symbolic dream vision. Neither author reveals his identity by instead chooses to write pseudonymously in the voice of a biblical scribe of the exilic and early postexilic period: Ezra, who returned the Torah to Jerusalem, and Baruch, the scribe of Jeremiah. What drives the momentum forward is a continuous revelatory dialogue between the seer and God, or God's interpreting angel. By the end of each book both seers have undergone a remarkable transformation, from skeptic to consoler, ideal community leader, and latter-day Moses.